Window Dressing

Rose Tile Bathroom Window

I’ve been a long admirer of the inside of beautiful homes and love gazing at Gennine’s posts of her home as well as Design*Sponge’s Sneak Peaks. I put this up several weeks ago after being inspired by a small corner store near Edo Salon where I got to see Ehren Reed’s fabulous artwork.

I do believe everything is connected and yet I forget and then I remember. I’m busy and I have work to do and I feel like I need to get the work done… but then I’m inspired and distracted. This installation is one of those things I did when I was inspired and it really has helped take my artwork into new directions as well as make me happy. I’m working on an another site-specific installation for our other bathroom. Glad my dad suggested we get two!

I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts lately and Craft Sanity is one of my favorites. Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood really does an incredible job of interviewing and definitely enjoys it. Two of my favorites are Wendy from Built by Wendy and the Beerhorst Family. These two made me cry… in a good way.


©8.17.2010 Leah Virsik, Serendipity. Front side. Paper, muslin, acrylic, thread, 6 5/8 x 5 1/4 inches.

Kelly Warren titled her blog post today with the question “What Does Authenticity Mean?” I’ve been thinking about that for the past couple of weeks in my quest to do work that is meaningful to me but also with a desire to do work that utilizes my strengths. In a recent critique, my teacher commented on liking a certain color scheme of mine vs. another and I found myself focusing on that color scheme as I was painting. It was really wierd and I realized I needed to stop that right quick. That’s when I know I’m not being authentic.

I was creating art last night and having trouble deciding what exactly to do. I’m rarely short on ideas but it seems l tend to easily “forget” that terrific idea that I was so enamored with a couple of days ago. Really, I think it doesn’t matter what I make, as long as I’m creating, I’m priming the pump, so to speak. But I think I’m going to work on writing down my ideas and coming back to them on a regular basis.



©8.15.2010 Leah Virsik, Patchwork. Paper, muslin, acrylic, thread, 5 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches.

I’m in a place of discovery… some exciting things are happening. I’m in a critique group with Lisa Kokin with seven other fabulous artists and two of my books are in a show at O’Hanlon Center for the Arts in Mill Valley curated by Donna Seager.

I’ve signed up to study with Nina Bagley at An Artful Journey next February. I’m so curious about going again. I feel like my experience last year with DJ Pettit really changed me in my ways of making and teaching.

This past couple of weeks I’ve been using the technique I learned from DJ. I’m using matte medium to adhere painted tissue paper, clothing patterns and scrap papers on top of muslin and then painting the backside on top of molding paste. Above, is an example of a small piece of that… cut up, rearranged and sewn together. I think it’s way more interesting than the original piece.

Ideal Art Practice and Other Inspiration

Alissa Neglia "Root to Crown" 2006My photo above is Alissa Neglia’s Root to Crown, 2006 at Dejerrassi.

I was inspired by Andy Warhol’s quote “Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it say twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.” This quote is in The Happiness Project I’ve been reading. I try to create every day. And if I don’t… what I do is around creating. I was trying to work on my art for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 when I get home. It does work well for small projects. Discipline can be quite the challenge for me. Do you have a art schedule or certain hours where you work on art?

Anyway, just want to share a bit of what I’ve been up to… Tom and I went on a really great tour of the Dejerassi Resident Artists Program by Dennis O’Leary, Executive Director of the Program. Very inspiring and good exercise! I mentioned I make books and Dennis’ wife, Catie O’Leary (who creates beautiful collages from original engraved illustrations from antique books) mentioned the Bedford Gallery’s show entitled Unbound: A National Exhibition of Book Art Opening July 11 where she’ll have a piece on display. Looking forward to that!

I was at SCRAP on Saturday taking Jody Alexander’s class on Wearable Books. I made “spitballs” from paper. The paper really does make a difference. We soaked paper in water and then rolled it into a ball. When they dry… mine still seem a bit damp, they can be made into beads or whatever. I love Jody Alexander’s work. Very inspiring! She’s teaching at Foothill College over the summer. One of the books she shared that she’ll be teaching is the cross structure binding by Carmencho Arregui. I am super enamored by that binding and very inspired to make it. I will learn it in the near future. In the meantime, maybe I can learn how to make this sweet little “package”.

Now why am I inspired to make that specific book structure and package? That’s part of my next question working though Alyson B. Stanfield’s Relatively Pain Free Artist Statement workbook. I had an emotional response to that book. It was a small criss-crossed leather notebook with embroidered knots, ledger paper and Jody Alexander’s handwriting. It was so precious to me… I asked to see it again. I had never seen that type of binding before. I think I thought Keith Smith was the only book artist making up book structures. I felt a bit obsessed trying to figure out more about the binding. I’m fascinated by construction, structure and three-dimension.

Tonight I went to hear Val Britton and Jeff Hantman (who coincidently did a residency at Djerrasi) give talks about their work at Kala’s Fellowship Talks. I’m went because I’m curious about Val Britton’s work and how she’ll be influenced by her upcoming residency at Recology SF. I didn’t know of Jeff Hantman but I really enjoyed hearing about his process. He started by showing works on paper and then on wood. He then started learning to bend the wood and applies collage and printing to the surface. What seemed the most interesting to me was how important it is for him to create his “surface”. And really it’s not about surface, the whole piece is his art… I felt like I could relate in that I really enjoy the construction of creating a book… the process of learning how to construct, build something. As I’m writing this, I realize my struggle has been wanting to unify the construction of the book and what’s inside the book. Sometimes, after I make the book, I’m not as interested in going back into it with writing, collage, etc. So if the binding is the last thing I do, then it’s more unified. I’ll definitely need to explore this topic more.

A Bit of Variety

A moment to brag…my husband is the best! Tom drew this over a year ago on a pad of paper and I just discovered it this morning! What a nice surprise! It’s fun stuff like this that really makes our relationship special.

I’m enjoying reading Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun”. She quotes William Butler Yeats: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” As a life-long learner, this makes so much sense to me. I’m coding email campaigns at work and I enjoy it tremendously because there’s so much for me to learn.

In my last post, I wrote about my artistic influences and even though it was extremely long, (thanks to those of you who read it!) I feel like it could be even longer because I’m surrounded by so many things that inspire and influence me. I always love a good story and I’m always inspired by good storytellers. Currently, I’m enjoying reading Lisa Occhipinti’s blog who I discovered via Cloth Paper Scissors. When I think about storytelling, I think about my sister Erin, and conversations of us being verbally challenged. So nice to have other methods of communicating, through writing and visual images. Erin has a very inspiring blog, entitled Butter Badge, where she documents the food projects that have taken over her weekends. She’s very passionate and I’m waiting for her book to come out!

Documenting My Artistic Influences

Collaborative Book Project with Roben-Marie
“Believe” acrylic/collage: paper, acrylic, rub-on letters 6″ x 6″ ©2010 Leah Virsik

I found this quote going through some high school memorabilia…

“We are all guilty of crime, the great crime of not living life to the full.  But we are all potentially free. We can stop thinking of what we have failed to do and do whatever lies within our power. What those powers that are in us may be no one has truly dared to imagine. That they are infinite we will realize the day we admit to ourselves that imagination is everything. Imagination is the voice of daring.” ~Henry  Miller

I’m continuing to work through Alyson B. Stanfield’s The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement e-book. This time I’m working on writing about my artistic influences.

I was recommended a book on encaustic and after looking through the book, I looked up the author online and found out she was teaching at an Artful Journey. Totally engrossed on the Artful Journey site, I temporarily forgot about encaustic and became fully enamored with DJ Pettit.  I was taken by her books and her stitching. After discovering her,  I started doing some “renegade sewing”. My mom taught me how to sew at a young age but what I remember most is jamming up her machine with thread and feeling incredibly guilty for “breaking” her machine. Now when I jam it up, I fix it myself, without guilt.

Artist, Teddy Goldsworthy-hanner referred me to Daniella Woolf who works with encaustic and books. Ahh, heaven!

Tom and I were getting our marriage license at Oakland’s Clerk Recorder’s Office and I was mesmerized by a button portrait by Lisa Kokin of her father. When I read that she taught classes, I knew I wanted to meet her and study under her.  This huge portrait of buttons was something I had never seen before. I was in awe… up close it was a mass of buttons and mixed-media and from a distance it was a portrait of a man. Anyway, as I’ve had the chance to see more of her work, what really stands out for me is her thoughtful process, conceptual approach and her delightful humor. I connect with the layers and depth of meaning in her work.

I really appreciated Robert Rauschenberg‘s concept for his Erased de Kooning at the SFMOMA. I especially loved his piece entitled Hiccups at the SFMOMA as well. Unfortunately, no photo but it was long: 9 in. x 752 in. (22.86 cm x 1910.08 cm) made up of prints, solvent transfer and fabric, with metal zippers on 97 sheets of hand-made paper. Another obsession of mine… long, massive works… it’s intriguing. Creating something bigger than myself in many ways is important to me. I appreciate Rauschenberg’s collage and paintings and the raw, organic feel to his work.

I got to see an incredible retrospective of Mark Rothko’s work at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. I almost wonder why I was so taken by this exhibit. Was it the docent, the exhibit or his work? It was probably the entire experience. I could sit in front of one his piece’s at SFMOMA for quite a long time just being. I’m attracted to his work because it’s massive, dominating in a way, peaceful, abstract, colorful and simple.

The Slanted Door in San Francisco had some Rex Ray pieces on display for awhile. That may have been where I first saw his work. His work has a lot of precision, especially some of his bigger pieces that I’ve seen at Gallery 16. I’m attracted to that precision and obsessiveness. As I’m writing this, it reminds me of the obsessive quality of Lisa Kokin’s work. I’m particularly attracted to repetition as well, as in repetition of elements. Some of Rex Ray’s smaller pieces are covered in resin which I’m quite attracted to… that highly shiny quality. I use resin in some of my own works. I’d like to try it with paper at some point too.

Kiki Smith, Eva Hesse and Helen Frankenthaler are some other artists that come to mind. Kiki Smith does a lot of work with the body and sculpture and ties it in really well with storytelling. When I think of Eva Hesse, I think of strings and large installations, the color white and an ephemeral quality. I remember connecting to Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings and the fact that she’s a woman.

Other influences in my work: I mentioned repetition and I have done some screenprinting and letterpress work. There are multiples that come out of printing. I create advertising for a living and it’s printed in multiples, hundreds of thousands at times. I’ve often wondered about what can be done with the leftovers, other than recycling. I’m influenced by what goes in the garbage. What else can it be used for?

I began my career designing newspaper advertising. At my brother’s graduation from U.C. Berkeley, I remember seeing a newspaper on the ground, it was garbage, but I had created the ad on that paper that no longer had value. It was quite depressing at the time. But now, I see it as a challenge… how can I create value in something that has outlived it’s original purpose?

Grateful for Support

Voice of Contemplation One

For details on the piece above, click here.

I’d been wanting to get back into blogging… especially since coming back from An Artful Journey in February and meeting such wonderful inspiring women. One of the best things about taking classes and going on retreats is the people! Kelly Warren’s and Roben-Marie Smith’s blogs really inspired and encouraged me. Starting my blog again with an “imperfect” post was my way of “shipping”. (I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s inspiring Linchpin and really enjoying it.) Thanks also to Chrissy Gardner for stopping by! I’m also inspired by her blogging and creative look. I bought a funky, fun skirt last night, that reminded me of her, with the intention of wanting to look and feel more creative.

The best time that I had blogging was last November when I was participating in Leah Piken Kolidas’ Art Every Day Month. I met some really wonderful people there too! I’m now participating in Leah Piken Kolidas’ Creative Every Day Challenge 2010. Thanks to her, the wonderful community she creates there, Linda Tieu and Julie Jordan Scott for reconnecting and encouraging me forward!

Art Every Day Month: November 19

Roots and Branches Revisted, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

So I’ve been writing about my latest obsession with WordPress themes and I found out about Paper the theme Amanda Hawkins created. It’s a theme for artists and crafters. Really fun and she’s got a great style. She also has a DIY planner template and sewing instructions on her site. Check her out if you haven’t already! I found out about her via Erin Zam who makes incredible books. I love digging deep through the sites of other artists. One thing it has done is make them more accessible for me, basically so I don’t put them on a pedestal.

I’ve decided I want to create my own WordPress theme. Today, I was working on creating email blasts at work and I have so much fun trying to figure out code. I know I’ll enjoy it, it’ll just be a while before I tackle it.

I found out about Zentangles today. You’ll just have to take a look… Maria Thomas says ” Creating a Zentangle is like painting with patterns instead of colors.” There’s a beautiful Zentangle gallery on flckr.

Above is “Roots and Branches Revisited Reverse”. I really appreciate all the comments I’ve been receiving from people participating in Art Every Day Month. Your comments have helped me see more of what I create. It’s been helpful to see that the backs are part of the whole work, not just something you never show. Thanks to Tom for listening to me and helping me with the words for this last sentence.

Art Every Day Month: November 18

Heartscape, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

I missed a day yesterday blogging but I did do some art and I really enjoyed connecting with my artist friend Deborah Griffin. Check out her very inspiring and deeply layered work! So fun to be next to the artist as she’s creating! She has a fabulous book collection that I enjoy looking through.

I began some more postcard backgrounds with colored pencils. Looking forward to seeing what happens with watercolor on top of them.

I’m looking for inspiring WordPress sites. I’m not sure if this is WordPress or not but I was definitely inspired by Thom Sevalrud’s site.

I’m realizing with this postcard above that I think I’d really enjoy free form quilting. I’m becoming more comfortable with sewing paper and I’d like to do some hand sewing like Cathy Cullis’ beautiful work. As I work on art this month, I’m seeing the bigger picture and the importance of creating a LOT of work.

Art Every Day Month: November 10

Quilt section, originally uploaded by Leah Virsik.

It’s day 10 of Art Every Day Month.

A teaser of my quilt. This is actually one square I like. I know it doesn’t look like a square… I’ve been enjoying using my scanner lately rather than the camera… especially with these dark evenings.

Tom’s impressed that I’ve been keeping this up. I’m actually impressed too. It’s so fun to be a part of larger community and connect with other people who enjoy making! You all are helping me keep going. Thanks!

My friend Bonnie Randall Boller (who started a blog!) sent me this link about dry point etching on a cardboard plate. Looks like fun and easier than zinc. My first introduction to printmaking was from Enrique Chagoya in college.